In California, we are fortunate to find some of the most spectacular parks, rivers, and forests – public lands that are protected for all communities to experience and enjoy. People come from far and wide to visit these natural wonders and vast open spaces, contributing millions to the state’s important outdoor and tourism economy.
For the many Latino communities in California, and beyond, protecting these lands is deeply important. As for many communities, spending time outdoors is important for connecting with our families and reminds us of the ties that all people have had to the earth for generations. But for some families that do not have everyday access to open space, places like the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in Los Angeles, and the Sand to Snow and Mojave Trails National Monuments in the California Desert offer opportunities for healthy recreation, education, and relaxation.
Latino advocates, community leaders, faith leaders, and members of the public have organized and played important roles in helping to get these lands protected, along with many other diverse communities who share the same values that America’s beautiful landscapes are one of this nation’s greatest treasures, and a legacy that defines us.
Our leaders have listened. Thanks to the Antiquities Act – a vital tool in conservation created by Congress and used equally by both Republican and Democratic presidents alike – President Obama has created five more national monuments from the California Coast to the shores of South Carolina that protectunique landscapes, stories, and heritagefor future generations. He did this with an emphasis on reflecting the diversity of this nation, codified by the Friday’s Presidential Memorandum that provides guidance for making public lands more inclusive.
Now, new leaders in Washington, D.C. will be responsible for safeguarding the legacy of the Antiquities Act, and the conservation of our public lands that has been so central to the values we all share in this country. If confirmed, nominee for Secretary of the Interior Rep. Ryan Zinke will be responsible for stewarding our public lands for the coming years. We hope he will uphold America’s historic commitment to preserving our public lands in the public trust. And we hope to work with him to continue what President Theodore Roosevelt started more than a century ago.
by Anabella Bastida, Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM)